The 14th ranked UCF Knights and the 20th ranked Memphis went through a good ole fashion shootout as advertised with UCF winning the American title in an emotional double overtime game by the final score of 62-55.
This game had everything you could ever want in a game, a ton of offense, drama, excitement and a game-sealing play.
“It’s a shame that anyone had to lose that game,” UCF head coach Scott Frost said. “But I said before, what these guys have done is not just improbable, it’s impossible in two years to get where they are, and it’s a special group.”
The Knights went from 0-12 two years ago, to 12-0 today. It’s pretty remarkable on the turnaround that the Knights have gone through.
The game went all the way to the very end going back and forth, multiple lead changes and a whole lot of nail-biting by UCF Knights fans.
The drama started when the game was tied at 48 with a little under a minute to go, and Memphis had a chance to kick a field goal to take the lead by three. UCF initially blocked the field goal, but the referees called a delay of game penalty after the play. However, Memphis missed the kick on the following attempt and gave the ball back to the Knights.
Milton then threw a pick on the following drive with about 40 seconds left, which was his third of the game. The game went into overtime.
In the first overtime, both teams scored a touchdown and made the extra point to force another overtime. In the second overtime, the Knights scored quickly and got the lead up to seven. Memphis gets the ball, and on fourth down, Riley Ferguson made the pass to Anthony Miller who made a spectacular catch to give Memphis life.
Two plays later, Ferguson threw an interception to Tre Neal that subsequently ended the game and gave the Knights their third American title victory in program history.
“We were just in man coverage and just trying to pressure them in my block so, I just zoned off, and I saw the ball come to me so, I just jumped and grabbed it,” Neal said.
UCF got off to a very hot start on both sides of the ball, starting the first quarter on a 17-7 run led by McKenzie Milton. Milton was firing on all cylinders making play after play.
However, the Knights offense slowed down a bit after the second quarter due to turnovers. The Knights committed to three turnovers alone in the second quarter, and it not only got Memphis back in the game, but they were able to gain their first lead in the game and ended the half with a 31-24 lead.
They scored 17 of their 24 second-quarter points off the Knights three turnovers. Two of those were from Milton’s interceptions but the Knights like they have every time, find a way to overcome the adversity.
“This team is resilient,” Frost said. “We’ve been through lighting delay’s and hurricanes and missed games and 12 straight weeks of games and you know these guys have answered the call and risen to the challenge every time that they have the opportunity to.”
Even though Milton threw three interceptions in this game, he had a record-breaking day. Milton stats for the game, 28-40, 494 yards and five touchdowns which is an American championship game record and three interceptions. Milton also rushed for 68 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown.
That’s a total of 562 yards of total offense for Milton and six touchdowns in the game when you do the math.
Shaquem Griffin was another player who had a huge impact on the field today for the Knights. He was all over the field for the Knights as he had two sacks and a forced fumbled that the Knights recovered on the opening drive. Griffin is nothing but thankful for the opportunities that he is given.
“I’m just grateful, and I’m just thankful for everything that came our way,” Griffin said. “I’m so grateful that I have guys [his teammates and coaches] like this. I love them with all my heart, and it’s nothing that I can say or do, but I would not change this for nothing in the world.”
Tre’Quan Smith also had a huge game with six receptions for 161 yards and two touchdowns, including a 35-yard touchdown that Smith ‘Mossed’ the defender.
During the game, rumors and reports surfaced that Scott Frost would be named the head coach of Nebraska. More on that in the next article.
With the win, the Knights have finished the season undefeated at 12-0, something that not many teams do and will most likely be heading to the Peach Bowl on New Year’s day.